Greener manufacturing

The UK car manufacturing sector risks missing out on vital investment in environmental production processes if government and consumers place too much emphasis on the green credentials of vehicles themselves, warned Volvo’s environmental advisor, Don Potts.



Speaking at the press launch of Volvo’s new range of DRIVe low emission cars, Potts said that manufacturers were struggling to balance the government’s long term carbon targets with short term consumer needs. The result, according to Potts, has been a lack of investment in green processes at the cost of the UK’s manufacturing future.



Potts said: ‘The problem is that not many people who buy cars are interested in the manufacturing process. It doesn’t sell vehicles and until people look at the bigger picture, manufacturers won’t have an incentive to change their practices.’



He added: ‘The drive towards lowering CO2 has definitely made Volvo spend a lot more money on modifying cars and invest in greener manufacturing facilities. But there are many companies that think these government initiatives are an absolute pain because in a recession, additional expenses can send a company into bankruptcy.’



With cutting costs high on the agenda of many companies, Potts believes the introduction of a carbon tax will force manufacturers to use cheaper solutions to meet targets. This could mean reduced investment in facilities and training in favour of producing cars that allow consumers to benefit from green tax breaks.



‘For the ten reasons someone buys a car, the environment is one below the CD player, said Potts. ‘If you look at the sales of the DRIVe vehicles they surprised Volvo that they sold so well. I think the real reason is that they are fantastic on tax.’



However, Potts believes that despite manufacturers intentions, progress in producing greener vehicles will be halted as a result of misplaced investment. He hails hydrogen as the future fuel for the automotive industry but argues that without training engineers to develop the technology, Britain will lose out to its global competitors.



‘Technology and engineering will always find solutions, but in Britain we just don’t train engineers anymore. If we don’t produce them, they can’t come up with the solutions for us.



‘I think what we need to do is have realistic targets, make sure we can achieve them, make sure the public understands what environmental taxes are and increase investment in green technologies that are going to work.’


Ellie Zolfagharifard